Food fads come and go, but have you ever wondered what the hot-ticket dish was back when you were born? Stepping back through the years, you’ll find some food fashions that are frankly gruesome. But others can bring a tear of nostalgia to the eye, and there’s always the possibility that they even tasted good. So with that in mind, here’s a quick selection of foods from a bygone age.
If 1960 was the year that you appeared on the planet, then you were born right into the era of one of America’s weirder food fads. That was the culinary crime known as gel-cooking. Gelatin manufacturer Knox even released a recipe book dedicated to blanketing perfectly good food in gelatin. How about molded avocado and tuna? Or corned beef and slaw salad? No thanks!
Chicken à la king (1961)
The year is 1961, and chicken à la king is all the rage. Initially something of luxury dish for New Yorkers, this creamy poultry recipe eventually became more broadly popular across the United States. So, by the early ‘60s, you’d often find this meal served at a wedding feast or a fancy get-together.
Cocktail meatballs (1962)
Still beloved today, cocktail meatballs were all the rage back in 1962. Composed of grape jelly, herbs, spices and sometimes a little chili sauce, these tasty little appetizers are still sure to go down a treat at any social gatherings. And by presenting them with toothpicks sticking out, you’ll even be able to avoid any mess.
Julia Child’s coq au vin(1963)
It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that Julia Child helped to revolutionize American eating habits. When her program The French Chef debuted in 1963, it contributed towards the spread of French dishes around U.S. homes. Child was a master of many recipes, but perhaps one of the most popular was her coq au vin.
It’s a difficult thing to ponder nowadays, but there was once a time before the Pop-Tart. Kellogg’s made the toaster treat available for families around the United States in 1964. And the product immediately exceeded demand – with initial stocks reportedly snapping up in their entirety after just a fortnight.
California Dip (1965)
California Dip remains a work of simple ingenuity; after all, this simple concoction consists of only sour cream and a dry onion soup mixture. According to Insider, it was devised by some unnamed prodigy as far back as 1954. But whatever the case of its origins, it had become a vital part of American society by 1965.
Chocolate fondue (1966)
It seems that many Americans had developed a taste for the indulgent treat by 1966. That year, a rich dessert known as chocolate fondue had started to spread around the country. According to European Cuisines, the dish was created by Swiss chef Konrad Egli, who worked at Manhattan restaurant Chalet Suisse. And of course, it wasn’t long before other places started to serve it.
Crêpes Suzette (1967)
Though she didn’t invent it, TV chef Julia Child played a big part in popularizing crêpes Suzette. In fact, the dessert – which was delighting foodies by 1967 – is older than Child herself. Many theories of its beginnings exist, and one claim is that it was accidentally created in 1895 by teenager Henri Charpentier. According to him, the crêpe dessert he was making one day became engulfed in flames. He presumed it was spoiled – but then he sampled it. As he wrote in his autobiography Life à la Henri, “It was, I thought, the most delicious medley of sweet flavors I had ever tasted.”
The Big Mac (1968)
In 1967 a man named Jim Delligatti did something significant – he invented the Big Mac. However, it was only during the following year that the new burger appeared in McDonald’s outlets all around the U.S. Of course, it didn’t just taper off there, and today the company estimates that around 550 million Big Macs are eaten every year in America alone.
Carrot cake (1969)
In 1969 people apparently believed that carrot cake might actually be healthy. However, though it is indeed loaded with the orange vegetable, it’s still a sugary cake after all. But it is also a delicious and popular treat even today – much like it was in the late ‘60s.
Quiche Lorraine (1970)
The year 1970 saw quiche Lorraine marching across America’s dining tables. It’s originally French of course, from the Lorraine region. Fill a shallow pastry case with cooked egg and cheese garnished with bacon, and you have your quiche. Alternative forms of the dish include those with spinach, mushrooms or tomatoes. So basically it’s a pie, and everyone likes pie. Don’t they?
Eggs Benedict (1971)
Americans have long been inclined towards brunch – and eggs Benedict has long been a reason for that. The meal is said to date back to the 19th century, but it was undoubtedly extremely popular by 1971. In fact, that was the year that McDonald’s decided to jump on the bandwagon with its Egg McMuffin.
When German immigrants arrived in the United States, they brought with them a type of granola made with wheatberry. And initially, this wasn’t hugely popular – until the recipe changed. Instead of wheatberry, people started eating granola with oats, and by 1972 its popularity had soared.
Salad bars (1973)
Salad bars are abundant throughout America nowadays – but this wasn’t always the case. Before the ‘70s, in fact, your best bet for coming across one would’ve been in a steakhouse. However, that all changed when businessman Rich Melman opened up R.J Grunts in 1971, in what became the first eatery in his Lettuce Entertain You restaurant network. Indeed, within two years, salad bars had become extremely fashionable.
Wacky cake (1974)
Back in World War II a number of popular foodstuffs were rationed – and with things like milk and eggs more of a rarity, one had to get creative. As it happens, it was possible to make a delicious chocolate cake without these ingredients – turning it into a vegan concoction. In fact, the so-called wacky cake was so tasty that the recipe even became popular again in 1974.
Beef Wellington (1975)
Pâté-covered fillet steak wrapped in pastry, parma ham and then baked to perfection – there’s little better than a hearty serving of beef Wellington. Initially enjoyed by the British, this meal ultimately proved a hit with many Americans during the 1960s and ‘70s. By 1975 specifically, it had become a common dish to serve at fancy dinner get-togethers.
Chicken Kiev (1976)
Like the beef Wellington before it, the chicken Kiev developed into an essential dish for sophisticated gatherings during the ‘70s. And in 1976 it actually went on the market across the pond in Britain as a TV dinner. This meant that a person could simply toss it in the oven and wait for the delicious results.
Pasta primavera (1977)
The now-famous pasta primavera initially came from an eatery in New York called Le Cirque. However, its popularity truly spiked after a recipe for the dish was published in 1977 by The New York Times. And from there, it exploded onto the U.S. dining scene that decade.
Walnut and goat cheese salad (1978)
It’s easy to throw together – and more importantly, it is healthy and absolutely delicious. So, it’s no real surprise that walnut and goat cheese salad had become all the rage by 1978. Furthermore, given how simple it is to prepare, the dish has endured right up to this very day.
Blackened fish fillets (1979)
As the 1970s came to a close, an inventive chef named Paul Prudhomme launched a new restaurant in New Orleans, Louisiana. Here, he started to serve blackened fish fillet – basically, fish that’s been heavily scorched. A variety of species can be prepared in this way, but trout and red snapper are particularly good.
Chicken Française (1980)
Chicken Française was the dish of the moment in 1980. It’s one of those Italian-American recipes which likely never actually saw the light of day in Italy itself. As you may already have guessed, Française indicates that this chicken dish was allegedly cooked in a French manner. It’s really a version of fried chicken doused in a lemon sauce. And it is definitely worth a try.
Asian noodle salads (1981)
Initially served under the problematic label of “Oriental” noodle salads, what we refer to today as Asian noodle salads were a popular meal in 1981. Generally eaten chilled, these salads consist of tasty components like ginger, nuts, scallions and soy sauce. And of course, the dish is still very much enjoyed today.
Pasta salad (1982)
A perfect meal during the spring or summer, this light dish is generally made with pasta, vinegar, mozzarella, tomatoes and black olives. Mostly served cold, pasta salad was extremely popular in America in 1982. But that’s not to say, of course, that it ever disappeared as a go-to dinner choice.
Buffalo wings (1983)
Reportedly conceived in 1964, it took a little time for Buffalo wings to spread out from their native neighborhood. Eventually, though, the delicious pieces of chicken made it past the borders of Buffalo. And by the time 1983 had rolled around, they’d taken over the whole country.
Potato skins (1984)
While it’s not known exactly where the idea for potato skins came from, we can say that they were all the rage by 1984. In fact, the Chicago Tribune even reported that farmers were struggling with consumer demand for spuds that year. Indeed, it seems that people just couldn’t resist the tasty servings.
Many of us enjoy a refreshing cocktail from time to time, but not everyone wants the alcohol. Enter the mocktail. Instead of having to get a little tipsy, one can enjoy the beverage simply for its fruity tastes and vibrancy. And this was something that the people of 1985 understood well.
Microwavable popcorn (1986)
By 1986 microwavable popcorn had become the favored snack for quite a number of Americans. This was understandable – given it is low in fat and doesn’t contain too much salt. To top it off, it’s something that you can whip up in a manner of minutes at home.
Chocolate truffles (1987)
During the 1980s a chocolatier named Alice Medrich was beginning to make waves in Berkley by producing chocolate truffles. These were so tasty, in fact, that they eventually got the attention of The New York Times – which decided to interview her in 1986. By the following year, chocolate truffles had become a full-blown national sensation.
Bran muffins (1988)
As America entered into the final years of the 1980s, there was a definite appetite for a wholesome snack that wasn’t too bad for you. And by ‘88 the bran muffin appeared to fit the bill perfectly. In fact, rumor even had it that they helped with a person’s cholesterol, though this claim was later rubbished by Harvard researchers.
Crème brûlée (1989)
Otherwise known as Trinity cream – or, more simply, burnt cream – crème brûlée was one of America’s desserts of choice in 1989. While already enjoyed by some people already, it had become truly popular as a result of cooks Dieter Schorner and Patricia Wells. In fact, the latter wrote a recipe for the dish in 1989’s Bistro Cooking and helped introduce it to swathes of people.
Fusion pizza (1990)
Those born in 1990 came into a world that had just invented fusion pizza. Apologies, but there’s nothing we can do about that. If you’re looking for someone to blame, Wolfgang Puck is your man. He’s the chef credited with introducing pizzas with outlandish toppings. His innovations led to a world where it’s regarded as acceptable to have pineapple atop your pizza.
At the beginning of the 1990s the American public had a new dessert to swoon over. Having steadily been growing in demand during the ‘80s, tiramisu had truly become a national sensation by 1991. Indeed, it seems that there was just no way to resist the charm of the Italian coffee-blended treat.
Ranch dressing (1992)
While you wouldn’t exactly say that ranch dressing is overpowering, it’s undoubtedly got its own zesty and creamy charm. Even in the present day, the sauce still has plenty of devotees that would swear to its scrumptious qualities. Ultimately, though, we can trace its enduring popularity back to the year 1992.
During the ‘80s the Japanese dish known as sushi had started to win over a number of Americans, but by 1993 its popularity had really soared. And certain spins on the dish – like serving it with mayonnaise – made it a little more palatable for American sensibilities.
Caesar salad (1994)
It’s now difficult to imagine an America without Caesar salad – but it was once a rare thing. In 1993, however, The New York Times went to press with a piece revolving around the meal. From there, the dish’s popularity grew and by the following year it was being eaten across the country.
Sun-dried tomatoes (1995)
At some point during the 1980s the notion of sun-dried tomatoes had first started to crop up in the United States. But by the middle of the ‘90s they’d become a true foodie sensation. It seems that their prevalence really spiked after a fittingly named cookbook called Sun-Dried Tomatoes was published in 1995.
Fried calamari (1996)
Perhaps surprisingly, fried calamari had become an American favorite by 1996. Yet just around 15 years before that, the idea of squid as a foodstuff had been dismissed, according to Slate. Apparently, back at the start of the ‘80s there were those who saw it simply as fish bait. How wrong they were.
Crab cakes (1997)
People around Chesapeake Bay in the states of Virginia and Maryland had long enjoyed the delights of a crab cake. But it was only during the 1990s that the wider American public began tucking into the delicious dish. In fact, by 1997 they had become something of an American classic.
Molten chocolate cake (1998)
Despite its obscure origins, we can say that molten chocolate cake came into existence at some point during the 1980s. But regardless of where it came from, the pudding undoubtedly become a favorite by 1998. The year before that, it was introduced to the menu at Disney World – and there was no going back from there.
Stepping out for a night on the town in 1999, there really was no escaping the cosmopolitan cocktail. Ultimately popularized by Sex and the City, the pink drink was everywhere at the end of the last century. And you can thank Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha for that.